Cheap copies can cost dearly


By Eduard Spreitzer

Over the past 20 years, Gruner AG has become a world market leader for polarised latching relays for load currents up to 250 A. Especially for the metering industry, a comprehensive range of products has been developed. Currently, the company has a total of 10 relays in its product portfolio that cover all its requirements. New products are currently in development to meet upcoming requirements for cost savings and performance. This is possible only in close cooperation with leading meter manufacturers worldwide. Requirements from the development teams, feedback from production and installed equipment deliver the important inputs for the engineers at Gruner to design relays which fit the customer’s requirements.

The design of the relay, the production process, testing and quality control are fundamental for producing a high quality product. Specifically the disconnection and reconnection of consumers requires a relay, which guarantees reliable operation over the lifetime of the equipment. The costs of maintenance in the case of failure are usually much higher than the price of a modern electricity meter with disconnection facility. Gruner’s sophisticated relay technology is also used in other industries, which are known for the highest requirements for reliability, performance and safety.

Unfortunately, Gruner is confronted with many copies of its most popular relays from Asia. The high growth rates of the relay market have motivated many companies to offer 1:1 copies, irrespective of intellectual property rights. Some of these copies appear identical to the Gruner original, down to the colour, logo and model number. To date, six different products manufactured by five different suppliers from Asian countries have been identified.

The copies of the Gruner relays are products that are made as closely as possible to the original by simply making a copy. Quality, reliability and performance are doubtful. There has been no significant investment in research and design. Companies copying Gruner relays do not invest in the design of new innovative products – they wait for new products from Gruner to copy.

Gruner relays are protected by international property rights. There are worldwide efforts to control piracy of intellectual property, not only in this industry. Many countries are involved in discussions regarding how to combat this problem. To protect itself, Gruner AG works with the German government, which in turn has initiated discussions at the governmental level with representatives of the respective countries. Gruner AG will continue to keep an eye on further market developments to trace back product piracy and to apply for confiscation of such products at the border, if necessary.

Latching relays are one of the most expensive components in metering products. It is understandable that meter manufacturers look for cheaper alternatives, especially when products appear to be identical. The use of these copied products can turn out to be a dangerous undertaking, however. Lack of know-how and careless manufacturing can lead to severe problems, such as contact welding, reduced life and reduced short circuit resistance.

Gruner relays are the result of engineering, customer interaction, customer contribution and years of experience in the design and manufacturing of latching relays for critical applications in harsh environments. This requires a lot of effort and investment. The high quality standard of Gruner relays is based not only on intelligent product developments, but also on a specific, highly developed manufacturing process and quality control.

The cooperation with customers is based on a fair partnership and together we will continue our collaboration on the principles of innovation and quality. The design and production of innovative products require effort and investments.

Gruner has made the decision for innovation and progress, together with customers. A substantial part of the company’s income will continue to be reinvested into new and enhanced products. Buying copied products is short sighted. It may lead to savings at first, but could end with costly product recalls.